Gillibrand touts plans for 'clean elections' and gun reform

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand addresses her audience during a stop Friday on her 'Trump Broken Promises Tour' at the Birmingham Unitarian Church in Bloomfield Hills. She will also make campaign stops in Lansing and Flint on Friday.

Bloomfield Hills — Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand spoke of the tragedy of gun violence in America and the need for "clean elections" Friday at an Oakland County town hall. 

The U.S. senator from New York detailed some of the meetings she's had with parents and families who have lost loved ones because of gun violence at the first of three planned stops in Michigan. 

"It tears apart apart the fabric of a whole community," Gillibrand said. "We need the kind of transformative change that puts the power of the democracy in your hands, not in the hands of gun manufacturers. The quickest way for you to get there is to have clean elections. That goes to the heart of political corruption."

Gillibrand is also set to visit residents in Flint and a Lansing brewery Friday, in the final day of her "Trump Broken Promises Tour." 

The three-state bus tour kicked off Thursday in Pennsylvania and Ohio before heading to Michigan on Friday. The three states were carried twice by President Barack Obama but narrowly supported President Donald Trump in 2016. 

Gillibrand slammed President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association, that she contends is "so corrupted" and “so concerned about the profits of gun manufacturers that they don’t care about the people they are supposed to represent.”

Trump, she noted, ran on a platform that vowed to address gun reform.

"But the truth is, President Trump lied every time," she told a crowd gathered here inside the Birmingham Unitarian Church. "He doesn't stand up to the NRA. He hasn't even tried to pass universal background checks."

She added the president also promised to make sure health care was affordable and better, but has "tried to dismantle the former President Obama's Affordable Care Act every step of the way."

In response, national Republicans defended the president.

“President Trump has delivered on his promises made to the American people with record low unemployment, a roaring economy and trade deals that put America First, so Kirsten Gillibrand’s anti-Trump rhetoric won’t do her any favors in a state the President carried in 2016," Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Joyce said in a statement.

Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox  argued that, based on polls, Gillibrand "might be a magician because her campaign is disappearing."

"She's polling under 1% amongst Democrats and continues supporting radical socialist schemes, such as  Medicare For All, the Green New Deal, abolishing ICE and decriminalizing illegal immigration," Cox said in a statement.

Gillibrand said Friday that she's hoping to gain traction by going to voters directly to show the American people how she can defeat Trump.

"I can go right into his back yard, go right into states he won and communities in Michigan that he was able to deliver and show the American people that he lied to them, that what he said didn't mean anything and I know they are still struggling," she told reporters after the Oakland County event. 

Gillibrand has said the aim of her tour is to "shine a bright light on the president’s failure to keep his word to the American people on kitchen table issues that impact their lives each day."

During the tour, she said, she'll offer "policy solutions that will actually deliver for working people" on issues including drug costs, jobs and gun violence prevention.

On Friday, Gillibrand said she would work on gun violence to "close the boyfriend loophole" in laws that only allow restraining orders for married individuals. She also wants to seek the use of hand identification technology to change the narrative about gun trafficking and put an end to the senseless accidental deaths of children.

As president, she also said she would sign an executive order for the Department of Justice to go after purchasers to stop gun trafficking. She also would target the "greed and corruption" associated with the NRA.

Publicly funded elections, she added, would be a "cornerstone of my administration," pointing to a proposal that would limit federal campaign contributions to $200.

"Once you get money out of politics you can begin to change the players list," she said. 

Amy Hochkammer, a Birmingham resident who also serves on the city's school board, said she likes Gillibrand and was impressed by her Friday message. 

"She was very well spoken. I like that she answered every question directly," said Hochkammer, 50. "She was prepared."

Aidan and Brady Johnson-Hill, who are 17-year-old twins, came to the church with their mother to hear about gun violence, an issue of top importance to them as they prepare to vote for the first time next year.

Brady, a student at Seaholm High School, said he's looking for a candidate with a plan for gun control.

"That's probably the most important issue," he said. 

Gillibrand is set to air cable television and digital ads in Detroit, Lansing and Flint on Friday as she visits the state more than two weeks before the July 30-31 debates in Detroit. She's one of 25 Democrats seeking the presidential nomination. 

The 30-second spot, titled "I promise," features clips of various Trump pledges during his 2016 campaign. It includes footage of a policy speech to the Detroit Economic Club that touches on a familiar theme for Michigan motorists: crumbling roads and bridges.

Trump agreed earlier this year to work with Democrats on a $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, he backed off that plan in May amid continued political infighting and has not yet boosted road or bridge funding.

Later Friday afternoon, Gillibrand was touring the Flint water plant with Mayor Karen Weaver where the failure to add corrosion-control chemicals under a state-appointed emergency manger after a water source switch led to the Flint water contamination crisis. She is scheduled to deliver remarks to voters during a "meet-and-greet" at  the Lansing Brewing Company Friday evening, according to the campaign.

Staff Writer Jonathan Oosting contributed